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Temple Tikvah seeks answers from HSBC

Puzzled by bank’s decision to close accounts

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Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012 1:26 pm

The Brotherhood of Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park recently received notice from HSBC that its accounts at the bank were going to be closed, and the men’s group is still wondering why.

Last month, Donald Panetta, treasurer of the temple’s men’s group received a letter from the bank informing him the group’s scholarship, youth group and operating accounts - totaling approximately $30,000 - would be closed as of June 1.

“No reason or explanation was given by HSBC,” Panetta said.

The bank instructed the group, which operates at the temple at 3315 Hillside Avenue, to make a withdrawal or it would send a check for the balance in the accounts, Panetta said. The men’s group had maintained the accounts at HSBC for the past five years, after Temple Tikvah had merged with a temple in Jamaica. 

Panetta said he called HSBC’s customer relations department in Buffalo for an explanation, and ultimately spoke to a manager in that department.

“I asked if the accounts were not active enough, the manager said that was not the reason. I pointed out that between all three accounts the temple men’s group was well over any minimum balance that HSBC might require. Again he said that was not the reason,” Panetta said.

Panetta said he asked whether the bank was taking the action because of the group’s non-profit status or whether the account was being terminated as the result of a random elimination process. Panetta said the manager told him those weren’t the reasons. 

Panetta said that when he asked the bank official if the decision was prompted by the account’s affiliation with a temple the manager did not reply to that question.

Instead, the manager suggested that Panetta read through the 63 pages of the bank’s rules of deposit online, according to Panetta

“He kept on referring to the rules of deposit. He said he was sure the reason was in there someplace,” said Panetta.

An HSBC spokesman said the bank could not discuss individual accounts, but provided the following statement: “In the normal course of business, we undertake periodic account reviews and reserve the right to close them as per the terms of conditions of our account opening documentation. As a result of such a review, we have decided to consolidate our customer base and are ending a number of relationships. We are mindful of the impact these difficult decisions may have on customers, and we are working with them to ease the account closure process.”

Panetta said he finds the bank’s behavior “very frustrating.” He has opened new accounts for the Temple Tikvah group at Valley National Bank, but he’d still like an explanation from HSBC. 

“Why are they picking on us?  Give me a reason why. Then I would accept it and move on,” he said. “I’m still questioning why. And they could never give me an answer.”                                                                                                                                         

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